The Latest: Alabama governor signs ‘vaccine passport’ ban
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed legislation banning so-called vaccine passports as Alabama becomes the latest state to try to prohibit proof of a coronavirus vaccination to enter a business, school or event.
The legislation by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur would prohibit government entities from issuing “vaccine or immunization passports” or other “standardized documentation for the purpose of certifying immunization status” although standard child immunization forms would be excluded.
It would also prevent people from being denied entry to businesses, universities, and state agencies if they have not been vaccinated for COVID-19. However, the legislation does not specify any penalty for violations.
MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India passes another grim milestone: 300,000 lost to the virus
— Stories of the virus from a poor U.S. city that has been hit hard
— Japan opens mass vaccination centers in Olympics runup
— First steps to reopening for Berlin’s clubs
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — The tiny island nation of Malta says it has administered at least one coronavirus vaccine to 70% of its population to lead Europe in the inoculation race.
Health Minister Chris Fearne said 42% of Malta’s people had been completely inoculated. The achievement has led to a 95% decrease in patients being admitted to Malta’s COVID-19 hospital, he said.
With a population of about a half-million, Malta is the smallest European Union member state. It has been using the four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency.
According to the ourworldindata.org website, Malta leads even Israel and Britain in administering at least one shot of the vaccine to its population.
Malta has reported some 30,000 cases and 417 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
JUNEAU, Alaska — About 60% of applications for a pandemic rent relief program must still be processed nearly three months after the application deadline.
KTOO Public Media reports the pending applications are among the roughly 25,200 that cleared initial income and documentation hurdles by the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. are awaiting processing.
The program is aimed at helping people who qualify by covering up to a year of rent and utility payments. The application deadline closed in early March. An official with the corporation administering the program says it is moving quickly and noted the high interest in the program.
LOS ANGELES — The huge Los Angeles Unified School District will start the new school year next fall with on-campus, in-person instruction for all students five days a week but will retain an online option, Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday.
Elementary school students will have full days of instruction with their teacher and classmates while middle and high school students will change classrooms for each period, said Beutner, who leads the nation’s second-largest school district.
After-school programs will be available to students from the end of the school day until 6 p.m.
Beutner said, however, that an online option must remain in place for the next school year for students who are unable or choose not to come to schools for in-person instruction.
“Some students and some staff members may need to stay at home until all at schools are vaccinated due to health reasons because they live with an immune-compromised family member,” Beutner said, adding that he expects the majority of students and staff to be at school every day.
Students and staff will wear masks until more children are vaccinated, he said.
The superintendent reiterated his assertion that Los Angeles Unified has in place the highest safety standards of any school district in the nation.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is joining a growing list of Republican-led states that plan to end participation in a federal program that gave an extra $300 per week in benefits to the unemployed during the pandemic.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Monday that the state will withdraw from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program effective June 26.
State labor officials said private-sector employment increased by 18,800 jobs last month and more than 460,000 online job postings were made throughout the state for job seekers.
“Florida’s employers are also seeing employment growth, as more Floridians, including some who completely left the workforce, are now eagerly reentering the workforce,” said Dane Eagle, Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Transitioning away from this benefit will help meet the demands of small and large businesses who are ready to hire and expand their workforce.”
At least 22 other states also have announced plans to end the enhanced benefits early.
Florida will continue to participate in other federal pandemic-related unemployment programs aimed at the self-employed, people who already have exhausted their unemployment benefits and gig workers. These federal benefit programs are set to expire in early September.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan government on Monday extended the on-going travel ban for another two weeks as health experts warned of a possible breakdown of the country’s health system due to the current state of the infection.
Sri Lanka is currently under a weeklong travel ban which was scheduled to be eased on May 28. But on Monday, the government announced that the lockdown-style ban will continue until June 07. During this period, the ban will be eased for several hours on two days to allow people to buy food and other essentials from any outlets within the walking distance.
However, the ban will not apply to those engaged in essential services such as health, food supply and power sector and those seeking medical treatment while others are banned from leaving their houses.
The fresh restrictions were imposed as the island’s key medical associations cautioned that the infection is rampant across the country and that the actual number in the community is more than three times the number detected.
According to the latest statistics of the health ministry, Sri Lanka has 161,242 positive cases with 1178 fatalities.
Doctors have predicted that the number of patients could rapidly rise in the next two weeks because of the last month’s celebrations and shopping by the people to mark the traditional new year.
Sri Lanka has halted public transport, banned public gatherings, parties, weddings and closed schools and universities.
SAN FRANCISCO — The ride hailing companies Uber and Lyft have started providing free transportation to and from COVID-19 vaccination sites in the United States.
Uber said Monday that it will provide four rides valued at up to $25 each through July 4 while Lyft has said that it is offering two rides of up to $15 each.
The federal government said earlier this month that it would partner with the ride-hailing companies to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated as the pace of the shots nationally started to decline.
President Joe Biden has set a goal of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to 70% of adult Americans by Independence Day and fully vaccinating at least 160 million by then.
GENEVA — French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among those rallying around efforts to strengthen the World Health Organization and the fight against pandemics as the U.N. agency opened its annual assembly with a draft resolution in the works that acknowledges missteps in the response to COVID-19.
The European Union and Vanuatu are behind the resolution that would create a working group on strengthening WHO’s readiness and response to health emergencies.
“We have to have institutions that are up to the task, that meet our ambitions,” Macron said by video during the mostly virtual meeting. WHO, he said, must be “robust” and “flexible” in times of emergency and crisis. “And it must be completely transparent to make sure that people trust the organization.”
Merkel threw her backing behind the idea of a “global health threat council” and said leaders should provide WHO with “lasting financial and personal support.”
The resolution would set up a six-person working group to report to the assembly next year. The text acknowledges “serious shortcomings” in the world’s ability to prepare, prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies.
LONDON — British health officials expressed optimism Sunday that the coronavirus restrictions remaining in England can be lifted in June after an official study found that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines offer effective protection against the variant first identified in India.
Authorities in Britain have expressed concern in recent weeks that increasing cases of the Indian variant could jeopardize the U.K.’s so-far successful plan to reopen its economy. More than 2,880 cases of the Indian variant have been recorded in England, figures show.
The government has said the variant appears to be more transmissible, but there was still uncertainty about how concerning this was.
Jenny Harries, chief executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency, said officials in England are on track to proceed with the final stage of unlocking the country from June 21 if the public remains cautious.
PARIS — The French foreign minister says it’s possible that France will introduce stricter coronavirus restrictions for British visitors when tourism reopens this summer, to prevent the spread of a worrying virus variant first detected in India and causing concern in Britain.
The minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, suggested that Britain could be put in a health category of its own, somewhere in between the strictest measures that France is imposing on visitors from India and 15 other countries, and more relaxed requirements being readied for visitors from elsewhere.
Speaking Sunday, Le Drian said “health measures that are a bit stronger” could be applied for British tourists.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s federal authorities on Sunday reported a decrease in COVID-19 deaths and new cases and decided to reopen tourist resorts from Monday but only for those who have either tested negative or got vaccinated.
As per the earlier decision of federal body, schools and higher education institution to open by Monday as well except for the southern Sindh province which opted to keep them closed for another two weeks.
Federal authorities reported 74 deaths due to COVID-19 and just over 3000 new cases of the virus in a single day.
The national body countering the spread of the virus urged people continue to adhere to the precautionary measures of mask wearing and maintaining physical distance at public places and during travel in public transport. They also stressed that people should get vaccinated.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s health minister said the government is concerned about the coronavirus variant first identified in India after the first cases of it were confirmed in the South American country.
Marcelo Queiroga denied, however, that there was community transmission of the variant, which was first identified in Brazil in the northeastern state of Maranhão, where 100 people are being monitored. A case was also confirmed Saturday in Ceará state.
According to Queiroga, 600,000 rapid tests will be sent to Maranhão to monitor the variant’s possible spread and he said health barriers would be implemented at airports, highways and roads in Maranhao to contain its movement. All passengers passing through airports or borders in the northeastern state will have to take the rapid test.
Brazil suspended flights from India last week following the recommendation of the National Health Surveillance Agency.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation has reported 12 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths.
Tribal health officials said the latest figures released Saturday evening pushed the total number of cases since the pandemic began more than a year ago to 30,767 on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The known death toll now is at 1,299.
On Saturday, there were two new coronavirus cases on the reservation but no reported deaths.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said more than half of the reservation’s adult population has been vaccinated.
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